3 online fantasy sports mythbusters in new report

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India’s burgeoning yet fledgling online fantasy sports (OFS) domain continues to witness a flurry of activity. As per a KPMG report, OFS platforms boast over 90 million active users, earning nearly INR 2,470 crore in annual revenue. However, this explosive growth has also been accompanied by conjecture and myths.

In an effort to smash these misconceptions, Consumer Voice, a prominent consumer protection group has published a user survey report, titled “De-mystifying Common Myths Around Online Fantasy Sports“. The report delves into the impact online fantasy sports has had on sports engagement and attempts to declutter some prevailing myths surrounding the platform.

Having garnered close to 10,000 responses from users of various OFS platforms, the survey establishes some solid facts about the fantasy sports scenario in India. The report intends to ensure that the collective voice of consumers takes centerstage in the journey as more and more users embrace online fantasy gaming in India and authorities enforcing reasonable regulations.

First Myth : Online Fantasy Sports platforms can be addictive

A blanket statement like that can be applicable to anything that is a source of a fair amount of entertainment. While the balladeers of online fantasy sports dismiss this claim, detractors point to a conspicuous presence of elements like the possibility of financial returns that gets users hooked. What does the study say?

According to the survey, 73% of users in fact spend over 30 minutes researching statistics, playing conditions and other information before making their online fantasy sports teams before a match. Close to 80% of the users indicated that once the fantasy teams are created by them, they only engage with real-time sports events and not the OFS platform.

Second Myth: Online Fantasy Sports can have a negative impact on the youth

Playing for stakes could from surface level seem like a worrisome vice? Does participating in online fantasy sports gaming platforms create any value addition to their lives in terms of skill and interest enhancement in sports? Let’s have a look.

According to the survey, as many as 88% said that online fantasy sports platforms actually increase their interest in sports. More than 80% of the users also said they became more aware of non-traditional sports like Kabaddi, Handball, and Volleyball, etc. due to participating in OFS platforms.

Toppling the notion on its head, the platform in fact has the potential to enhance users’ interest and awareness of sports, especially for non-cricket ones – definitely a positive impact on youth.

In conclusion, the impression that online fantasy sports lead to addictive behavior is not supported by this survey.

Third Myth: Fantasy Sports Online can leave users financially vulnerable

This myth is interesting as it presupposes that users are already unaware of the possible consequences and lack the judgement to invest responsibly. Does this concept hold any water in the larger scheme of things?

As per the study, majority of the users were able to find and understand the terms and conditions for paid contests and were, therefore, able to make an informed decision.

Moreover, most users found that the free contests allow them to use online fantasy sports solely as an engagement tool to interact with fellow sports fans and enhance their viewing experience.

Industry reports indicate that 99.2% of all users have either won or lost less than INR 10,000 net in their entire lifetime. Fantasy sports users participate in contests to engage with sports and compete with friends, with all contests being 100% transparent. The average ticket size is INR 35 with more than 50% of users winning back their participation fees or much more.

While a relatively small amount of money is involved, Consumer Voice suggests that the online fantasy sports sector still needs to err on the side of caution and be regulated to safeguard consumer interests from fly by night operators especially during peak sports seasons such as IPL. Broadly speaking, this myth also demonstrably falls flat.

Some key findings from the survey include:

1) 88% of the users reported that their interest in sports spiked after participating in online fantasy sports contests.

2) 81% of the users agreed that by virtue of using online fantasy sports platforms, they have become more aware of non-cricket sports like kabaddi, hockey, and handball.

3) 85% of the users agreed that the option of participating in free contests allowed them to participate without fear of incurring any financial loss.

4) Close to 90% of the users said that the terms of use for paid contests were easy to find and understand.

5) More than 73% of users spend over 30 minutes researching statistics and other information to make their online fantasy sports teams before a match.

In order to win on an online fantasy sports platform, users need to constantly learn, practice and hone their skills to be able to perform consistently. This very fact makes it markedly distinguishable from ‘gambling and betting’.

It is learnt that users are also increasingly becoming aware of the terms and conditions of online fantasy sports platforms. With an increasing sense of security, users are moving from free contests to paid contests as they perceive them as a financially safe, skill-based activity which piques their interest and engagement around sports. It is therefore established participation in paid contests is a voluntary and informed decision taken by users at their own discretion.

The numbers, at least in this survey, prove that this “sunshine sector” holds tremendous potential despite apprehension by some consumers and policy makers.